Repairing Spinal Fractures

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It's the calcium, not the taste Nora Ripper craves. At age 83 her bones are soft and very weak. She discovered how weak when she slipped on a rock and fell on the street.

"I felt like my lower back and my waistline in back is going to break in half," Ripper recalls.

It didn't take long for Marcel Maya, M.D., an interventional neuroradiologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, to find the problem. It was a fractured vertebrae of the spine … a common result of osteoporosis.

"Even picking up a small object from the floor, getting in and out of the car, just getting out of bed they can have these fractures," Dr. Maya explains.

Until recently patients suffered on bed rest for sometimes months while the break healed.

Ripper chose a quicker route called vertebroplasty. Under local anesthesia, doctors guide a needle through a small incision in the back. They then inject acrylic bone cement, stabilizing the collapsed vertebrae.

"What that does is form a cast inside the spine so the fracture no longer moves and that prevents pain," Dr. Maya said.

Ripper was back shopping two weeks later and is pain-free.

Her internal cast should provide a permanent fix for that bone, but the rest of her spine is still weak so Ripper has to make a few changes of her own, like wearing lower heels and slowing down her pace.

Dr. Maya says the procedure takes about 30 minutes and relieves pain in more than 90 percent of patients.

Marcel Maya, MD
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
S. Mark Taper Foundation Imaging Center

Los Angeles, CA
PHONE: (310) 423-2468

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